A poster for ‘The Shape of Water’ in China unwittingly swears at the audience | Society News | SupChina
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A poster for ‘The Shape of Water’ in China unwittingly swears at the audience

There are three days to go until the Chinese release of The Shape of Water, the fantasy drama film that won the 2018 Oscar award for Best Picture. A marketing campaign is in full swing, with a five-day countdown that started on March 11. The ads include digital movie posters that show movie scenes that reference a series of numbers:

On March 11, a poster with five eggs suggested that the movie would be released in five days.

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On March 12, a poster with raindrops photoshopped on a bus window in the shape of the numeral 4 furthered the countdown.

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Today’s poster, however, while it looks innocent enough at first glance — it shows the protagonist, Elisa, holding up three fingers — actually shows a profanity on screen. In the movie, this image comes from a mesmerizing scene in which Elisa, who is mute, using American Sign Language (ASL) to say “F**k you.”

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In all fairness to the poster creators, the sign language for the letter F does look almost identical to the way that many Chinese people gesture for the numeral 3. But this is a mistake that could have been avoided if the Chinese promotion team behind The Shape of Water had spent two hours watching the film. And in this case, they apparently didn’t bother doing it before kicking off the rollout.

On Chinese social media, the misuse slipped the attention of most moviegoers who haven’t watched the movie yet and know little about ASL, except a fairly small group of movie fans who are aware of the specific context where the hand gesture appears in the movie.

A user of Douban.com, a culture-focused website that hosts one of China’s best film-rating platforms, commented on the preposterous poster: “I rated this movie five stars, but this poster is unbearable.”

Screen Shot 2018 03 13 at 2.31.59 PM

Jiayun Feng

Jiayun was born in Shanghai, where she spent her first 20 years and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Fudan University. Interested in writing for a global audience, she attended the NYU Graduate School of Journalism for its Global & Joint Program Studies, which allowed her to pursue a journalism career along with her interest in international relations. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

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